- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2001

South Asia buzz

A candidate for assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs is a woman born in India, raised in Pakistan and educated in the United States, where she later served on President Reagan's foreign policy team.

South Asian newspapers are reporting that Shirin Tahir-Kheli is the front-runner to fill the position now held by Karl Inderfurth, who is expected to leave the post later this month.

Other candidates include James Clad, a professor at Georgetown University who worked as a journalist in India for the Far-Eastern Economic Review and Sandra Charles, currently with a private consulting firm, who has served in the Pentagon.

Indian and Pakistani newspapers are focusing on Mrs. Tahir-Kheli as the likely nominee because of her strong contacts with members of President-elect George W. Bush's transition team.

Pakistani-American groups are lobbying for her appointment, and Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi also supports her, according to reports last week.

"She is said to be particularly close to sections of the Republican Party's foreign policy circle," said the Indian newspaper Asian Age.

It noted she is favored by Bush adviser Paul Wolfowitz and Zalmay Khalilzad, an assistant undersecretary of defense in the administration of Mr. Bush's father and now advising the transition team on personnel recruitment for national security positions.

Asian Age quoted sources who called Mr. Khalilzad, now a senior analyst at the Rand Corp., her "political godfather."

Reflecting the regional rivalry between two new nuclear powers, Pakistani journals praised her possible appointment while Indian newspapers questioned whether she is biased toward Pakistan.

The Times of India said, "Some observers … suggest it would be inconceivable for a job of this nature dealing with combustible South Asia to be spearheaded by such an obviously partisan choice.

"That would hardly be the propitious start the Bush administration would be looking for in the Indian subcontinent."

The Clinton administration, after developing strong ties with India, last year had to defend itself from criticism that it was tilting toward India and against old Cold War ally Pakistan.

The Pakistani newspaper, the News, first identified Mrs. Tahir-Kheli as the leading candidate for the position in an upbeat story last week.

The News said she has been "tipped" for the position and noted she "grew up in Pakistan" and is the "daughter of famous scientist Dr. Raziuddin Siddiqui," a key nuclear advisory to Pakistan's military government.

Mrs. Tahir-Kheli is married to an Afghan-American.

New from Norway

Norway has named a former foreign minister as its new ambassador to the United States. Knut Vollebaek is expected to arrive in Washington March 1.

Tom Eric Vraalsen, Norway's ambassador here since 1996, has been appointed ambassador to Finland.

Mr. Vollebaek, a career diplomat, has served as ambassador to Costa Rica and in Norway's embassies in India, Spain and Zimbabwe.

He was foreign minister from October 1997 to March 2000 under Prime Minister Kjell Bondevik, who selected him because Mr. Vollebaek was also a member of the Christian Democratic Party.

Barshefsky's future

Charlene Barshefsky will leave her post as U.S. trade representative to join the Woodrow Wilson International Center later this month.

"I am looking forward to working over the next several months with Lee Hamilton, director of the center, and the other distinguished scholars there," Mrs. Barshefsky said in a statement Friday.

Mr. Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat, is a former member of the House of Representatives.

Mrs. Barshefsky's new duties will be to write on and speak about how U.S. trade issues affect economic and foreign policy issues.

She also will lecture during the spring at the Yale University Law School.

Mrs. Barshefsky, a former Washington trade lawyer, served in the U.S. Trade Office during both terms of the Clinton administration.

She has been trade representative for the past four years.

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